Wheelman in epic L.A. car chase was trained to drive by the U.S. military

Herschel Reynolds, 20, the driver in Thursday's televised car chase through Hollywood, was a trained tactical vehicle driver for the U.S. Marine Corps before being “prematurely discharged” in January.

Herschel Reynolds, 20, the driver in Thursday’s televised car chase through Hollywood, was a trained tactical vehicle driver for the U.S. Marine Corps before being “prematurely discharged” in January.

(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

Herschel Reynolds mesmerized TV viewers with a wild drive through Los Angeles that included skillfully performing doughnuts in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard and a teenage passenger busting out dance moves.

It now appears the 20-year-old can thank the U.S. Marine Corps for helping him hone some of his driving abilities.

The Pentagon confirmed Friday that Reynolds was a trained tactical driver for the Marines before being “prematurely discharged” in January. The U.S. military said Reynolds had served as a motor vehicle operator for the 1st Marine Logistics Group at Camp Pendleton. Reynolds served with the Marines for nearly two years as a private, according to military records.


“Reynold’s premature discharge and rank are indicative of the fact that the character of his service was incongruent with Marine Corps’ expectations and standards,” the Pentagon said.

Identified as the driver, Reynolds both horrified and delighted Angelenos for two hours Thursday during a televised chase that included a close call with a TMZ tour bus and ended with a hero’s welcome in a South L.A. neighborhood – with celebratory high-fives, hugs and selfies with a swelling crowd. Along with a 19-year-old passenger, Isaiah Young, Reynolds peacefully surrendered to sheriff’s deputies, who arrived minutes after he parked the rented Ford Mustang.

Both men have been booked on suspicion of burglary, with Reynolds being held on $50,000 bond and Young on $80,000 bond, according to jail records.

Reynolds and Young were taken into custody near the intersection of South Central Avenue and East 51st Street, the neighborhood they lived in.

DMV records show that Reynolds has had his driver’s license suspended twice and had three speeding tickets from 2013 to 2015. His criminal record shows he was charged with reckless driving last year, but the charges were later dismissed.

The day after the pursuit, residents on a rain-slick 51st Street said Reynolds and Young were known for their sense of humor, but they couldn’t believe it when they saw them hamming it up for the cameras with police in hot pursuit.


“That’s crazy because they don’t seem like the people that would do that,” said Jasmine Diego, 18, who lives down the street. “You just see them all the time with their friends and family….They always looked out for each other.”

Diego said she closed her windows and locked her doors when she heard helicopters buzzing overhead – thinking something really bad was going on. If she had known it was Reynolds and Young, she would have gone outside to take in the scene, she said.

It didn’t surprise her that Reynolds allegedly stepped out of the car then casually sat on the hood to wait for police.

“They’re always so relaxed, just calm people,” she said.

The neighborhood was buzzing by the time the men drove onto 51st Street on Thursday afternoon.

The duo grew up there and stopped in front of their home, residents said. When it became apparent that that was where the chase was headed – some say they may have been Snapchatting during the pursuit – their friends and neighbors emerged to greet them.

“I’ve been here 22 years and never seen that many people in the street,” said Carla McKing with a laugh. She lives in one of the homes that’s a listed address for the men. “Everyone knew who they were in the convertible.

“I know for a fact they were raised right. Their parents raised them right,” she said.

When they were younger, Young and Reynolds offered to cut neighbors’ lawns, McKing said.

“They try to be considerate. Very respectful,” she said. “What in the world is wrong with these boys. ... They just made a bad choice.”

Thursday’s chase began with a report of a residential burglary in Cerritos at 1:24 p.m. – just after a rainstorm moved into Southern California. The burglars fled the home on Charlwood Street before deputies arrived, but neighbors were able to describe the suspects’ vehicle, a Ford Mustang convertible. Within minutes, personnel in a sheriff’s helicopter spotted the car on the westbound 91 Freeway.

Authorities said roads were too wet and the Mustang was weaving through traffic too dangerously for sheriff’s deputies to follow it, so they relied on a helicopter to monitor the vehicle instead.

But when the Mustang reached the interchange of the 110 and 101 freeways in downtown L.A., the California Highway Patrol took up the chase. The Mustang got off at Hollywood Boulevard. By that time it had already rear-ended one vehicle.

In Hollywood, with no police behind them, the driver began doing doughnuts in the middle of the street, spinning across all lanes of traffic and forcing other cars to stop. The car then motored west, where countless tourists got to see the Mustang drive against traffic by the TCL Chinese Theatre and Hollywood Walk of Fame.

From there, the Mustang drove into the Hollywood Hills, going into opposing traffic lanes around blind curves, narrowly missing oncoming traffic, and fishtailing on rain-slick roads.

Without any vehicles close behind, the driver drove back through Hollywood’s tourist district and onto the freeway, where it was almost trapped by a TMZ tour bus that cut off its path as it tried to split two lanes.

The men were transfered to a downtown Los Angeles jail Friday afternoon and are expected to have a court appearance next week.

Twitter: @josephserna, @LAcrimes and @wjhenn


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